Monday, August 08, 2011

Starwind progress

I haven't talked about the sailboat much lately. After the July 4th weekend I was planning to write a long, ranting tirade about how trying boat ownership can be. I spent the better part of two days that weekend chasing diesel gremlins, changing out fuel filters, etc. I went to bed that Sunday night with the motor still refusing to start. I woke up Monday morning and turned it over one last time, and it decided to suddenly run fine. We were able to take it out to watch the fireworks, and a horrible, frustrating weekend ended with an incredible evening on the water.

Due to the fact that I've been so busy, you were spared that boring blog post. However, I thought I'd bring everyone up to speed on the latest progress.

First, the new bimini we commissioned should be finished this week. For the first time ever, we'll have shade when we go sailing this weekend. The frame was already installed when I got to the boat Friday.

New bimini frame

I still haven't finished fiberglassing my ghetto air-conditioner box, but it's doing its job in this extreme heat. It's a huge step up from the canvas bag we had on the Cruis-Air unit.

My super ghetto sailboat air conditioner

Of course, my visit to the boat this weekend wasn't just for fun. I had to deal with one of the worst problems, perhaps THE worst problem, you can have on a boat -- a broken head. Yes, my brother and his friends used the toilet several times last weekend only to find the head would no longer pump out. When I arrived Sunday, the boat was emitting the worst odor imaginable and my brother was trying not to vomit while bailing urine out of the bowl and into a bucket.

This weekend picked up where he left off, and despite my best efforts to service the pump without making a mess, I managed to flood the floor of the head and cover myself with a mixture of holding tank and sea water. It was probably the grossest job I've ever had to do.

I was amazed that the old Wilcox-Crittendon Headmate had quit again because I rebuilt it with all new seals last summer, and then re-lubed them again at the beginning of this summer. It was all explained when I finally got the pump apart and found that the shaft of the pump handle had corroded in two. On one hand, I was happy my previous maintenance hadn't been at fault for the incident. Unfortunately, it also meant that I couldn't repair the toilet again.

The first option was the $130 Jabsco sold at all West Marines. That toilet was not highly recommended by my marina mates. Everyone said it has a life of about six months. Being covered in urine and feces is not something I want to do every six months.

My friends Chris and Rachel pointed me in the direction of the Kemah Boaters Resale Shop and told me to look for the rebuilt Wilcox Crittendon Junior they had seen on consignment there. They said I'd know which one it was because unlike the cheap modern toilets, it was made entirely of cast iron.

It was indeed easy to locate the Wilcox Junior because it was a beast among the boat toilets lining the shelves at the resale shop. The thing weighs at least 40 pounds and has a huge stainless steel pump handle. I hauled it up to the desk to ask if the clerk knew for sure whether or not it worked. He looked at it for a minute then said, "I'm not really sure, but there's a 3-day guarantee, so you can take it home and poop in it a couple times to check it out. If it doesn't work, just bring it back."

The price marked on it was $249.99, but with the resale shop's intricately confusing colored highlighter sale codes, it came out to $199. Paying $200 for an old toilet that might be better used as a boat anchor wasn't especially appealing to me, but I decided to risk it, and I'm so glad I did.

Wilcox Crittendon Junior

This thing flows water like the wind. If the boat was flooding, you could bail it into the toilet and pump it out. It flushes better than my toilets at home. If anyone is able to break this thing, I will be seriously impressed -- and they will also be cleaning it up themselves.
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